The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question, “What are some strategies for making allies in the office?” is written by Kirsten Helvey, chief operating officer of Cornerstone OnDemand.
The term “making allies” has a bad reputation of being something calculated, cold, and political. In fact, having a network of allies at work is a positive thing, and even has the power to make or break your career.
To me, a work ally is someone I know will support me in any initiative I am trying to accomplish. This means they will take my side in work disputes, back my point of view in meetings, and help me accomplish my overarching goals. I can do the same for them. It is important that allies have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Early in my career I connected with a colleague who I would consider my first work ally. He was one of the co-founders of a company I worked for, and he always went out of his way to listen to what I had to say or connect me with the right people who could help. This relationship showed me that a large part of being successful in my job relied on my ability to harness the power of others.
Allies are different than mentors and it is important to make this distinction. A great ally can be above, equal to, or lower than you in the chain of command. Similarly, allies are different than friends. Although it’s always preferable to have a good personal relationship with an ally, it’s not necessary. You can have little in common with them on a personal level while creating and maintaining a healthy relationship in the office.
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